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2011 Neptune Novices Hurdle Preview and Betting Selections

Favourite: Oscars Well

Form Play: Bobs Worth

Value Play: Court In Motion

The middle-distance hurdles races at the Cheltenham Festival can be some of the most intriguing and there is a lot to like about this year’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. There are few that are co-entered for the Supreme Novices and that complicates matters a bit if we’re talking ante post, but there are few contenders trading at plausible prices whose festival still might be up in the air - if that’s any help.

Oscars Well has emerged from a nearly unblemished campaign, his only loss being a tough second place from a field of eighteen in his seasonal debut at Thurles. He enters the race as a multiple Grade 1 winner in Ireland, notching strikes at Navan and Leopardstown in his last two and he’s entering the race with a tidy one-month lay-off and plenty of momentum. A score over the respected Zaidpour gave lie to his festival credentials and you can expect him to get bet down even further as we get closer to the off – the Irish will be out in full-force on day two.

Oscars Well is still unproven at Cheltenham and, with a price as low as 3/1, you wonder whether he’s getting overbet.

Peddlers Cross put in a great shift to win this one last year and the other contenders here will be smiling knowing that the Donald McCain-trained gelding will be heading elsewhere.

So Young definitely warrants a look and he’s another quality contender who’s been campaigned in Ireland this year. Only out twice in the 2010/11 season, he had a decent little flat career before showing genuine acumen going over hurdles. He is still yet to win at graded level, but he has shown the ability to make mistakes and still win easily, so that gives him a bit of extra credibility going into this. He has also beaten a large field, on the maiden score, which is an important (and often overlooked) handicapping angle for Cheltenham. He is unraced over the course, but so are many of the contenders here, so you reckon it’s not that big of a deal in this one. Don’t expect a massive amount of support for him (as he’s not Irish-bred) but he looks a quality play at 15/2 and even better should he drift to 10/1.

Court In Motion is one of those tricky outside selections that bookmakers don’t seem to be able to make up their minds about. Some have him floated at 16/1 while others bandy him about at the 25/1 margin. He was a beaten favourite last time out at Haydock when he finished second to Back In Focus in Grade 2 company. He also finished second in a Grade 1 contest at Newbury to the respected Backspin, before ultimately triumphing in a Grade 2 hurdle at Warwick. Warwick is a decent proving ground for a Cheltenham performance and this will be the six year-olds first festival. You’d like to see Emma Lavelle take a score on a stage this big and if you can get in at 25/1 he looks a tidy outside wager. He floats on the exchanges at upwards of 40.0.

Backspin deserves a look as well and the lightly-raced Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding didn’t have the best of days on his Cheltenham debut back in January, finishing fourth out of ten to Bobs Worth. He is a Grade 1 winner and has experience over the surface but you wonder whether a single digit price is just a bit too short, though he will likely get AP for this one.

Bobs Worth trades at a very short price but it is justifiable based on a 21111 lifetime record that includes a pair of scores at Cheltenham – the final one was a score over Rock On Ruby in a Grade 2. He’s forged a good rapport with Barry Geraghty and he’ll be well warmed up for this one. Bobs Worth goes as high as 6/1 on the exchanges.